Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the covering (myelin) of the nerve fibers gets damaged by the body's own cells. This affects the central nervous system and leads to health concerns.
Normally, the nerve fibers have a covering called myelin, which protects the nerve fibers and ensures proper communication between the body parts and the brain. In Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune disorder, the fighter cells of the body, attack the myelin considering it as a foreign body and damage it. This affects the communication process and causes range of symptoms depending on the amount of damage or scarring of the nerve fibers.
Role of Diet in Multiple Sclerosis or MS
Diet is an essential component of one's life and can be instrumental in self-management and promotion of health and wellbeing. A good diet plays an important role in people diagnosed with MS and may help in managing symptoms like constipation, fatigue and feeling of being unwell.
Based on dietary guidelines to prevent major diseases, a balanced diet is considered useful for maintaining good health for all. This promotes including major food groups like fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and carbohydrates, while limiting the intake of fats and simple sugars.
Special Diets For Multiple Sclerosis or MS
While research studies continue to explore the exact role of diet and nutritional components in MS, most of the patients with MS are being advised special diets. Some of the special diets for MS include:
Best Bet Diet for Multiple Sclerosis or MS
Best Bet Diet (BBD) is presented by Ashton Embry, a researcher, who presented about the link between diet and MS. The principle of this diet is based on the autoimmune activity in patients with MS. It believes that some food proteins remain undigested and leak through the intestines into blood circulation. The immune system identifies these proteins as foreign bodies and autoimmune response is initiated.
It is believed that some foods have a molecular structure similar to that of the myelin protein. As a result, the immune system gets confused with such food proteins. Thus it increases the autoimmune attack on the food proteins and the myelin.
Hence, restricting the intake of such foods can help in reducing the autoimmune reaction. Additionally, it is advised to take a blood test to detect food sensitivity and determine any hypersensitivity reactions in the body.
Best Bet Diet focuses on eliminating foods that have a similar molecular structure as that of the myelin protein. Such foods include:
- Dairy – Milk and milk products like cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc. should be avoided.
- Gluten – A protein found in wheat, rye, barley, their products and some forms of oats should be eliminated. A gluten-free diet is advised.
- Legumes – Beans, peas and pulses, soya and soy products should be avoided.
- Refined Sugar – It can contribute to the leaking of food protein and must be restricted.
Alternatives that can be included in the diet are
- Rice milk or low-fat coconut milk
- Grains like rice, corn, quinoa, gluten-free flours and grains
- All green and leafy vegetables can be consumed
- Natural sweetening agents like honey, maple syrup, fruit sugar can be used.
Along with this diet, some supplements that promote healthy gut function and prevent leaking of food proteins may be advised. For example, probiotics, antioxidants, multivitamins, zinc, glutamine, etc.
The Swank Diet for Multiple Sclerosis or MS
Dr Roy Swank researched for several years and observed the prevalence of MS in certain areas and its possible relation with diet. His observations led him to believe that consuming a low fat diet would be beneficial for patients with MS and may also help to reduce the symptoms.
The Swank Diet advises reducing the consumption of fats (both saturated and unsaturated), particularly found in foods like meat, especially red meat, dairy and dairy products and processed foods. To compensate for protein intake, other sources like beans, pulses and fish may be allowed. The diet plan promotes taking fish oil supplements like cod liver oil and vitamin supplements along with this diet.
The Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Diet
This plan was proposed by Professor George Jelinek, who was diagnosed of MS. This approach aims at focusing on vegetable or plant based diet, which is low in saturated fats. It also includes supplementation of healthy fats and omega-3-fatty acids with flaxseed oil, fish oil or fish.
It is recommended as a comprehensive lifestyle program that comprises this special diet, along with nutritional supplements or medication, vitamin D supplements, exercise and meditation.
The Paleo Diet for Multiple Sclerosis or MS
The main principle of the Paleo or Paleolithic diet is that a modern era's diet can lead to health problems, while following a caveman's diet can be helpful. The foods that were easily accessible at the time of hunter's era like seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are a part of this diet. The diet does not allow intake of dairy, legumes, grains, flour, processed foods and refined sugars.
This diet mainly aims at restricting all preservative and additives in the diet and increasing the amount of animal proteins, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Additional supplementation may be required for nutritional compensation.
The Wahls Protocol for Multiple Sclerosis or MS
Dr Terry Wahls, who was a clinical professor, designed this diet after having suffered from relapsing type of MS. Making complete use of her knowledge of biochemistry and related sciences she designed a plan of supplements that would act as food for the brain. Then, she developed the Wahls Protocol, in which she replaced the supplements with a diet. The diet plan includes foods and recipes that are gluten-free, egg-free and dairy free.
Most of the researchers believe that diet plays a special role in managing MS and have proposed various special diets. It is important to follow your physician's advice and consult a nutritional expert while planning a special diet for MS.